UK rail system described as ‘broken’ as 2022 data shows extent of disruption | Rail industry | Daily News Byte


Rail passengers have been delayed or disrupted on more than half of all train services departing from Great Britain’s 15 busiest stations in the past year, a Guardian analysis shows, describing a “broken” railway system that cannot be easily fixed.

Experts said the figures – which show rail services in the North and Midlands as the hardest hit – show the impact of two decades of privatisation, which has increased costs and public subsidies, and labor shortages exacerbated by the pandemic.

The analysis came as industrial action paralyzed the rail network on Boxing Day. Millions of commuters turned to their cars instead as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) went on strike as part of a long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions. The AA estimates that 15.2 million vehicles were on the road on Boxing Day.

Rail unions have planned more strike days in the first week of January. The RMT union plans to strike for four days in early January, and the Aslef union, which represents the drivers, is going on strike on January 5.

A Guardian analysis of rail delay and cancellation data from performance tracking site OnTimeTrains found that Manchester Oxford Road was the worst performing station in terms of the severity of delays experienced by passengers. 48% of trains departing from the station were delayed and canceled more than once in 10 from December 18 of the year.

Graph showing the 10 worst railway stations in Britain for percentage of canceled trains in 2022

A graph showing the worst British rail stations for delays in 2022

The analysis, which looked at the 100 busiest stations in Great Britain, found that stations in the North and Midlands tended to have relatively higher delays and cancellations.

Tom Haines-Doran, author of Derailed: How to Fix Britain’s Broken Railways, said statistics on the extent of rail disruption were further evidence of a completely broken system.

“Railways are not operational in every sense of the word, they are inactive in every important respect,” he said. “And that means that fixing them is not a simple task of just fixing one or two aspects. The whole system is broken and it will take a lot of effort and a lot of money to fix it.”

Figures obtained by the Guardian this month show the level of disruption suffered by passengers in the north and the sharp regional divide in rail reliability across Britain.

The data shows that 20% of TransPennine Express trains were canceled in November, compared with 2.3% on a commuter line in and out of London and 4.5% on the London Overground.

Hans-Doran said the dire state of the railways was due to a “perfect storm”. “We have a situation where railways are spending more than ever, fares are higher than ever, and yet cancellations and delays seem to be higher than ever. The failures of privatization are coming home financially and in terms of system dysfunction.”

A spokeswoman for the Rail Delivery Group, the rail industry membership body, said the long-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on workforce numbers, as well as extreme weather events and rail strikes, were to blame.

The analysis showed that Coventry was the second worst performing station for delay severity, with 63% of trains from the station delayed and 5% cancelled.

Coventry was followed by Milton Keynes (58% delayed, 5% cancelled), Crewe (47% delayed, 6% cancelled), and Preston (38% delayed, 11% cancelled).

Other Manchester stations were also worst performers. Manchester Piccadilly had 9% of trains canceled and 37% delayed, while 8% of trains were canceled and 32% late at Manchester Victoria.

In London, the worst performing station was East Croydon, followed by St Pancras and then Blackfriars. All three stations are on the Thameslink service between Bedford and Brighton.

These statistics were collected by OntimeTrains from open data sources. The website assigns scores to each train based on punctuality. Those who arrive on time are assigned 100%, 10% for delays lasting more than 10 minutes and 0% for cancellations.

Cancellation statistics include services canceled on the same day only. Trains canceled in advance until 10pm the night before do not appear in industry systems and delay reimbursement claims are not allowed in those circumstances – meaning the true level of rail disruption at some stations is even higher.

A spokesman for Rail Delivery Group said: “The pandemic has reduced the number of drivers and other staff that can be trained in 2020 and 2021, while staff absence rates are inevitably higher than since the pandemic began. Regrettably, this absence often leads to delays and, or, cancellation of services. But train operators across the industry are working tirelessly to recruit and train new staff to improve resilience.”

Extreme weather events were also on the rise, the spokeswoman said, with the industry dealing with storms Franklin and Eunice, temperatures above 40C and flooding in the past 15 months. Meanwhile strikes by three rail unions “caused serious disruption to services on strike days and on both sides”.

The spokesperson added: “We are working hard to agree improvements to working methods with our staff so that we can fund pay rises for them and meet the changing needs of our customers as well as raise awareness of late repayment, while streamlining the process. Let’s make One-click and automatic compensation for only 15 minutes delay.”

The Guardian reported this year that train cancellations across Great Britain were at a record high, with one in 26 journeys canceled or partially canceled on all trains from October 15 to October 15.


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